The Tenth Inning Week 8 Texas Rangers

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The Tenth Inning Week 8 – Texas Rangers ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>


By Mike Ivcic

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the Texas Rangers as one of three examples during a detailed breakdown of how organizations have handled their young pitching talent. Rangers president Nolan Ryan deserves a ton of credit, along with pitching coach Mike Maddux, for their continued success in developing young, talented pitchers that have performed at a high level in the major leagues this season and in years prior. Still, Ryan doesn’t deserve nearly as much praise for that as he does for something else he’s accomplished.


Making the Texas Rangers the best team in baseball. Again.

As I wrote in the power rankings last week, this is a team that went to back-to-back World Series and fell short – in ’10 against the Giants and ’11 against the Cardinals – and then promptly lost their best starting pitcher (C.J. Wilson) after the 2011 season and their best overall player, annual MVP candidate, and face-of-the-franchise (Josh Hamilton) after the 2012 – to the same division rival. And yet, on May 20, 2013, the Rangers find themselves at 29-15, good for an MLB-best .659 winning percentage and a 12-game lead on the 17-27 Angels, home of the two Texas defectors and the team I picked to win the World Series.


True, it’s certainly not as if the Rangers were left completely bereft of any talent whatsoever when Wilson and Hamilton took their talents to Southern California, but losing players of that magnitude is often a death knell to a team’s playoff hopes. Look at the Brewers when they lost Prince Fielder, or the Marlins every time they’ve traded away talented players. Reloading isn’t typically possible in a baseball world that lives on long-term contracts and homegrown talent – even the Yankees figured that out. So what has made the Rangers so different?

The short answer: depth. The list of impact players on the current Rangers roster that were either drafted or initially signed by the Rangers is staggering. In the last ten years, ten players – including the starting first and second basemen and three-fifths of the current starting rotation – were drafted by Texas and have played for the big league ballclub:
Justin Grimm, SP
Derek Holland, SP
Mike Olt, 3B
Tanner Scheppers, RP
Robert Ross, RP
Julio Borbon, OF
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Craig Gentry, OF
Michael Kirkman, RP
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Matt Harrison, SP

And while that doesn’t necessarily seem like a huge coup, there are two mitigating factors in play. First, here’s the list of players drafted by Texas that were traded away:
Justin Smoak, 1B (Seattle)
Chris Davis, 1B/DH (Baltimore)
Tommy Hunter, SP (Baltimore)
John Mayberry, OF (Philadelphia)
John Danks, SP (Chicago AL)

So that certainly adds to the aura of the Rangers scouting and drafting prowess. But the real kicker is how well Texas has done in first discovering and then evaluating the talent in Latin America. Once the gold mine of teams like the Yankees, Mets, and Braves, the Caribbean islands have suddenly become the stomping ground for the Rangers, who have plucked the following players from countries like Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and the Nether Antilles and ultimately brought them to the big leagues. That list includes:
Elvis Andrus, SS
Joe Ortiz, RP
Jurickson Profar, IF
Leury Garcia, IF
Neftali Feliz, SP
Alexi Ogando, SP
Leonys Martin, OF

Another player that could be included on this list – Edinson Volquez, the key chip sent to Cincinnati in the trade that brought Hamilton to the Rangers initially.

Thus, without trades, free agency, or any other acquisitions like rule 5 picks, Texas would have already assembled an excellent core team. Throw in some of the players the Rangers acquired during the lean years as a return for trading away better talent (the method through which they obtained Nelson Cruz and David Murphy, most notably) and suddenly the Rangers are a contending team without spending a single dollar to sign anyone in the free agent market not already part of the organization.

This downplays, of course, the role that free agency has played in the Rangers success. Players like Adrian Beltre, Joe Nathan, Colby Lewis, Joakim Soria, and Lance Berkman all became part of the ballclub in the more modern way – leaving their former teams and inking their name to a deal with Ryan and the Rangers. Some, like Beltre and to a lesser extent Berkman, were huge acquisitions that instantly made the Rangers better. Others, like Nathan and Lewis, were considered stopgaps that ultimately became key pieces for the organization, and of course the Rangers are still waiting to get something from the oft-injured Soria. Plus, it never hurts to win the posting-fee game to sign a player like Yu Darvish, but it’s safe to say that this is a Texas team that’s been built from within and not from without – and that’s not likely to change any time soon.

For as much as Texas struggled at the major league level during the early 2000’s, it’s safe to say that this organization has consistently been atop the league when it comes to drafting high school and college players, as well as procuring talent from outside the U.S. Even beyond the last ten years, players like Wilson, Michael Young, and Mark Teixeira were all initially properties of the Rangers, further establishing the Rangers as an organization that actually has a clue. They didn’t get to the top overnight – it took a long list of solid draft picks and good free agent signings (and not signings) to create the stable framework that currently exists in Arlington – so even with the defections of Hamilton and Wilson, it shouldn’t a surprise that Texas is still the best team in all of baseball.

If only I’d seen that coming two months ago…

Three series to watch this week…
1) WAS @ SFG (5/20-5/22) – What many saw as a possible playoff matchup would right now be two teams not playing an ounce of October baseball. Yes, it’s early, but as the second place NL East team visits the second place NL West team, it’s just about time for both clubs to start performing up to their potential. 207 runs allowed and -5 run differential is terrible for the Giants – but it’s not as bad as Washington’s -17 run differential with only 155 runs scored.
2) NYY @ BAL (5/20-5/22) – That five-game losing streak for the Orioles could easily go from bad to worse if they can’t beat the current AL East leaders. This isn’t your older brother’s bash-the-ball Yankees, it’s more like your father’s Yankees – their 159 runs allowed is third best in the AL, compared to their 184 runs scored that puts them ninth out of 15.
3) DET @ CLE (5/21-5/22) – It’s the battle of the first and second place teams in the AL Central – and for the second year in a row, it’s not the Tigers in first place. Detroit can definitely swing the bats, but Cleveland’s starting pitching has been incredible the last month – and they’ll need to be in this short two-game series against Verlander and Scherzer.

Three series to watch this weekend…
1) CLE @ BOS (5/23-5/26) – A wonderful subplot to a series between two surprising ballclubs is Terry Francona’s return to Beantown. He should get a standing ovation – and rightfully so, having guided Boston to championships in 2004 and 2007. Still, it’s impressive to think about the job both he and Red Sox counterpart John Farrell have done this season, the two men who currently should be frontrunners for the Manager of the Year award.
2) STL @ LAD (5/24-5/26) – I include this series only because it has the potential to sink the LA season before Memorial Day. After three in Milwaukee and an off-day, the Dodgers have to face the best team in the NL while sitting seven games back in a division with three teams over .500 and not looking to fade anytime soon. If this ship doesn’t turn around quickly, the largest payroll in the NL will be playing to a lot of empty seats in August and September.
3) COL @ SFG (5/24-5/26) – I don’t know anyone who predicted this Memorial Day weekend matchup as one that would determine the NL West leader two months into the season. The Rockies have played outstanding baseball, and more importantly they’ve stayed healthy, and they’ll be a threat to dethrone San Francisco as long as that remains the case.

Next week: The return of the “Playoff Dead List”

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